To say 2020 has been a year of unexpected change and surprises would be an obvious understatement. But what has kept us going this year is what’s kept us going for the last 38+ years—creativity, our people and the possibilities for the future. Who we are as an agency has always been defined by our opportunity and the possibilities we create together.
As we continue the ongoing task of reinventing and pushing ourselves, we’re announcing a leadership shift. Neal Arthur and Karl Lieberman have been elevated to Wieden+Kennedy’s global leadership team, as chief operating officer and chief creative officer, respectively.
They will work alongside Colleen DeCourcy, who remains in her role as agency president and CCO, to run the independent, eight office network.
Tom Blessington, current co-president, will move up into the Chairman’s role, taking the reins from Dave Luhr, who will be retiring at the end of 2020.
“W+K is always reinventing itself, always seeking,” said DeCourcy. “The process works because the agency places its bets on people who are more interested in others than they are in themselves. My faith in the future isn’t just about Neal and Karl. It’s rooted in the many, many people here who want to do more with this culture than make ads.” Said Blesington, “Colleen & I are thinking about the future. Bringing new leadership into the fold now sets us up for success. We could not be more excited to elevate these two extraordinary talents and look ahead.”
The changes will officially go into effect on January 1, 2021.
Neal and Karl are currently the managing director and executive creative director for W+K New York, respectively, and agency stakeholders. Under their leadership, the New York office has had four consecutive years of its best revenue growth since the office opened in 1995, adding brands like Ford, McDonald’s, Michelob ULTRA, Kraft Heinz, and Duracell to the agency’s roster.
Arthur joined W+K in 2005. Before taking on the MD role, he was the head of strategic planning. During his tenure as MD, Neal has expanded Wieden’s portfolio of clients to include a broad and diverse roster of iconic brands. Not only has Neal cultivated talent within the agency, but he also serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for Ghetto Film School, forming a decade-long relationship with the organization whose mission is educating and developing the next generation of great American storytellers. “W+K has played a huge role in our lives, because it's not just a place or a job,” said Arthur. “It's a culture that has allowed us to be ourselves, to speak up, and use the work to say something. We feel incredibly lucky to be in a position to help others do the same.”
Lieberman joined W+K in 2008. His background is in both art direction and copywriting, and his work has been widely celebrated in culture. Notable examples during his time at W+K Portland include the Emmy-winning P&G “Thank You, Mom” Olympics campaign and “The Return of the Colonel” campaign for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Before W+K, he co-created “The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign for Dos Equis that ran for a decade and helped triple the brand’s business. “15 years ago, I couldn’t even get an interview at Wieden, so to find myself in this position is as surreal as it is awesome. This place has always pushed me,”said Lieberman. “When I came to Portland, they made me switch from art direction to copywriting. When I finally got comfortable with the idea of being a copywriter, they made me a creative director. When I finally settled into Portland, they moved me to New York. Now it’s my turn to help give more people the opportunities, inspiration, and confidence Wieden has given me over the years.”
Blessington first joined W+K back in 1990 but has taken a couple of detours over the decades. Tom is stepping up into the chairman role after serving as co-president of the network alongside Colleen DeCourcy for the past two years. During his time at W+K, he’s held various positions, including managing director for W+K Portland for over 11 years. He also helped open and establish W+K Amsterdam and later W+K New York, serving as its first managing director. Said Luhr of Blessington, “it’s time to hand over my chairman seat to Tom. He has been instrumental in W+K's growth across the decades and has never failed to put the company's needs before his own. I lured him back from YouTube to W+K knowing that I could eventually retire and leave things in his capable hands.”
Luhr, who moved to the chairman role in 2018, joined the agency in 1986 to run the Nike account. At the time, the four-year-old shop had a staff of 30 and a single office in Portland. He later became managing director of the Portland office and one of the agency’s first partners/stakeholders. Luhr focused on diversifying W+K’s client roster and growing the agency into today’s largest global independent advertising micro-network: eight offices aimed to create provocative, innovative work that provides strategic consistency and business results for global clients.